Editor’s Note: This is the cover story in the June issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine. Subscribe today.
Real estate in the next two to three years? We can only imagine. And if we dare to, we’ll probably fall short of foreseeing the change that will occur in our industry in just 24 months. Change so fast you can’t look away.
Realty ONE Group is keenly focused on it, innovating their technology, training and marketing services, and orchestrating key partnerships to not just be a part of that change, but to drive it.
This is “ONE” company that always seeks bigger. Looks farther. Knows there is more.
Since the company’s inception, Realty ONE Group CEO and Founder Kuba Jewgieniew and his bright and talented executive team and staff, who are committed to the same principles and values upon which he founded the company, have been determined to build an organization with the staying power of the Fortune 500 greats. To do that, they know it’s not about just pivoting on the newest technologies or adopting the latest marketing fad.
It’s about looking beyond the immediate future. Not just anticipating change, but seeking it out.
Like the precious face of the hopeful young girl on this magazine’s cover, there’s a bright and exciting future ahead for the next several generations. Realty ONE Group knows it would be a shame to get distracted by what’s right in front of us.
Why It Happened
It was just too much: the amount of money that Jewgieniew (pronounced Yev-gen-yev) paid to his broker when he did 111 transactions and more than $30 million in volume as an agent in his first full year in real estate in 2004.
“It was too much to leave on the table when I did all the work,” says Jewgieniew. “I was grinding it out and loving what I was doing, but never saw my broker until I had to hand over my commission. I realized quickly that there had to be a better way and that I wasn’t the only one feeling like this.”
Like with everything in his life that causes him discomfort, the spark ignited and Jewgieniew looked for a solution, not just for him, but for anyone experiencing the same angst. And he walked out the door.
Based on a 100-percent commission model, Jewgieniew created Realty ONE Group to give real estate professionals a better life. (Note: Jewgieniew refuses to call them agents. Using the term “professionals,” he believes, gives them the respect they command.) But, from the beginning, he wanted something different for everyone—buyers and sellers, office staff, online traffic, friends, neighbors, partners, anyone who crosses paths with Realty ONE Group at any time. It has to be a whole different experience, or it’s just not good enough.
The Very Definition of Humble Beginnings
We love a good “rise to greatness” story, and Jewgieniew has one. His mom, Elizabeth, and his dad, Jerzy, met at a young age in Poland and started their family with nothing. His dad was a mechanic by trade, but did his best work as an inventor. They seeded their only boy, a young, determined, sometimes mischievous Jewgieniew, with both humility and ambition. His parents instilled hard work and drive in their son the same way most parents instill manners and good hygiene. But it wasn’t an easy start, as the family had very little money.
“Despite what little we had, I’m so grateful to my parents for giving me what I consider to be the perfect start in life,” says Jewgieniew. “For me, it was the combination of freedom and guidance, passion and gratitude, and, ultimately, love that shaped me.”
His family immigrated to America and continued to build a better life. Jewgieniew worked his own way through college and, after graduating from the University of California, San Diego, started a lucrative career as a financial planner and portfolio manager. But he’s an inventor like his father, and was building hardware and software programs on the side; always curious, always exploring what could be.
Affecting people and creating change are what Jewgieniew values most about his role in creating one of real estate’s fastest-growing and most disruptive franchisors today.
The One Difference
With his eye fixed on what he considers an industry mired in traditions, Jewgieniew and his leadership team know that real estate will look entirely different in the next decade and that the stakes are high as competition continues to flood the playing field.
To entice anxious real estate agents and would-be franchise owners hoping to build on retirement, you have to not only stand out, but also let them know you’re here to stay. To do that, you have to prove you have the foresight for what’s to come and that you’re thinking of not only their children, but also their children’s children. And for Realty ONE Group, that means acting differently.
“Creating new, compelling experiences for people is what it’s all about for Kuba,” says Mike Clear, Realty ONE Group’s chief operating officer, who joined the company in 2017. “He truly believes that life is just too short to be unoriginal, and it’s hard not to believe it, too, when you’re around him.”
The make-it-different lens is used on everything, so much so that it has become second nature to the Realty ONE Group team.
“We’ll usually map out a project and then immediately flip it on its head,” says Clear. “By the time we complete it, it can, and usually does, look totally different from our original concept.”
That happened when the Laguna Niguel, Calif., office lease came up, prompting a move to a new space. Plans for the new Realty ONE Group “Hub”—named as such to avoid any implication of an ivory-tower headquarters office—changed repeatedly as the team burst with new, fun ideas meant to give the staff a reason to want to come to work. The Hub has a front entrance made entirely of glass—giving the illusion of not having a front door—and the brand’s signature black and gold cover are splashed all over the walls with vivid canvas portraits of Realty ONE Group’s love and laughter. A turf and gold ball soccer wall, shipping container conference room, zen garden and coffee barista are alone worth going in for a tour, and, of course, everyone is welcome.
“The passion Kuba has for everything he does is so infectious that it fuels us all to dream and imagine and go big—really big,” says Chief Brand Officer David King, who led the marketing and branding efforts for an expansive U.S. mortgage company before joining Realty ONE Group in 2017. “Every space in the new Hub was an opportunity for us to add meaning to our environment—to give our team something to think about or to be inspired by or to simply enjoy.”
Another preview of the difference will come when Realty ONE Group launches its new website later this year, promising to look nothing like any other real estate website.
“The key is to not just create something to be different,” says King. “We do it to elevate the experience, give people something to be excited about and hope that it leads them to their own inspiration. At the end of the day, we do it for people.”
Jewgieniew’s passion transfers to whatever he fixes his gaze on, including the disadvantaged and underprivileged, which led the team to establish ONE Cares in 2014, the official 501(c)3 arm for Realty ONE Group. It was a real way to solidify the company’s commitment to giving back to its family of agents and to others in need.
For years, the company and its real estate professionals have raised money, donated, hosted charity events, volunteered and worked together to make an impact on a variety of organizations. And ONE Cares has helped its own agents who suffered loss or faced challenges.
That work will continue, and in a big way. The company plans to do much more in the years to come and with a greater focus on nonprofit organizations that are committed to really making change and benefiting others.
In recent months, Jewgieniew pledged $11,111 to kickstart 2019 fundraising for ONE Cares, and he recently donated another $11,111 (see the ONE again) to S.A.F.E., or the Stop Abuse for Everyone non-profit organization, on behalf of husband and wife agents in his Temecula, Calif., office who lost a daughter to domestic violence.
“This is really how we make a difference,” says Jewgieniew. “Beyond helping people buy and sell homes, we can instantly impact lives by just doing our part. And that’s the legacy we want to leave for our kids and for our families.”
Realty ONE Group just celebrated its 14th anniversary on May 1, and unlike other cake-filled anniversary celebrations, the Realty ONE Group offices and its agents celebrated with a company-wide day of giving. It’s become a tradition symbolic of the company’s high value on people and making an impact.
But Still, There Is Fun
One of the hallmarks for the Realty ONE Group culture is fun, which is why the company coined its own term, “coolture.”
“Contrary to popular opinion, work and fun don’t have to be separate experiences,” says King, who orchestrated the company’s biggest convention to date, the ONE Summit, this past March at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. “We packed ONE Summit with fun, valuable and memorable experiences so our real estate professionals would know we’re here to help them not just be more successful, but enjoy their jobs.”
Realty ONE Group hosted memorable speakers like Earvin “Magic” Johnson and U.S. Navy Seal Rob O’Neill, while celebrating award winners with a formal masquerade party open to all attendees. The company also broke a Guinness World Record by creating the largest word out of dice—the ONE logo—with 11,111 gold and black dice, each carefully placed by convention-goers.
“It was the typical case of Kuba finding a way to let Realty ONE Group real estate professionals be a part of something unique and memorable,” says King.
And for the company, there’s no telling what memories will be made next as it continues to add onto the company’s army of real estate professionals and places an office in all 50 states while looking to expand into new countries.
Like a blockbuster movie, you definitely want to stay until after the credits just to get a teaser of what’s next.